On January 23rd this year, I gathered a group of kindred spirits and we went to Spijkenisse, a small town near Rotterdam, to protest against Geert Wilders. Our protest ended up becoming national news.
The specific reason for us being there that day was Wilders’ planned media stunt: distributing cans of “verzetspray” (or resistance spray) among the Spijkenissean womenfolk. Why? To defend themselves from the threat of sexual violence perpetrated by refugee men against white Dutch women, which Wilders argued would accompany the plans for an asylum seeker center being opened in the town.
On the market square of Spijkenisse, Wilders’ supporters hurled sexist and xenophobic insults at us and the local police intimidated and arrested us. The media who had gathered in droves for Wilders had no choice but to cover it all, and #Spijkenisse trended on Dutch Twitter that day. The result was a clear message that reached a wide audience across the country: Wilders and his supporters have no serious interest in the protection and rights of women, but are hijacking feminism for the sole purpose of bashing Muslims, refugees, and “foreigners” of any kind.
The police and Mayor of Spijkenisse were also implicated in the incident. In fact, the police will have to defend their actions in court, as the majority of those of us who were arrested that day will be appealing the basis for our arrest in front of a judge with the help of our lawyer, Willem Jebbink. He’s been legally defending a growing number of political activists. Our action fueled the public discussion about authorities’ infringements on protesters’ rights to demonstrate, and was subject to attention in the Dutch parliament. The outcome of our court case will, therefore, also have implications for that discussion. So stay tuned for more on that once we have our day in court!